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High Schools | CITY FOOTBALL REPORT

Gardena's Big Two Torment Defenses

October 22, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

There are a number of good athletes on the unbeaten Gardena High football team, but Chris Green and Jason Lewis are the main ingredients in the Panthers' winning recipe. Big plays from either or both are becoming commonplace in every game.

Green, a senior running back, has touchdown runs of 55, 59, 70, 73 and 80 yards. Lewis, a senior wide receiver, has scored touchdowns on a 26-yard pass reception, 63-yard run, 54-yard punt return and 86-yard kickoff return.

Each possesses great speed, knee-buckling moves and terrific athleticism. But the best thing is they are well aware of each other's contribution to the team, which takes a 6-0 record into its Marine League game against visiting Wilmington Banning on Friday.

"Basically, if a defense tries to stop me, that leaves room for him to score," Green said. "If they try to stop him, it opens things up for me.

"It's hard to stop us both."

Solidly built at 5 feet 10 and 190 pounds, Green has a combination of speed and power that allows him to break tackles or burst through holes. Lewis, at 5-9, 160, has quickness to sidestep defenders and sprinter's speed to run past them.

"Since I've been here, our athletes have been as good as anybody else's, but it took some time to bring our team work ethic around," said Coach Marshall Jones, in his sixth season at Gardena.

"As the rest of the team has gotten better around [Green and Lewis], it's allowed our athletes to shine."

For Lewis, the frustration of not playing a down while a member of the school's freshman-sophomore team as a ninth-grader still motivates him. He stuck it out, even after having thoughts of transferring to Long Beach Jordan or Lakewood.

"I just wanted to show the coaches that I could play," Lewis said.

Green has a lot to live up to, as his brother, Byron, led the Panthers to the 2000 Invitational Division championship. Green, who has rushed for 858 yards with a 13-yard average, says he doesn't want any part of the comparison his coach often makes between him and Gaston Green, the Gardena graduate who went on to play at UCLA and in the NFL. The players are not related.

"I told him before the season that he's got a chance to be one of the best," Jones said. "He's still a work in progress, but he's so damn fast and he's so strong from the waist down."

"I tell him to stop playing me like that," Green said. "Everybody here knows about Gaston Green. My 11-year-old sister knows about him."

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The reports of the demise of Woodland Hills Taft may have been overblown.

Although the Toreadors don't have the likes of Steve Smith, Cary Dove or Lance Broadus to overwhelm teams, the perennial section powerhouse has righted its ship under first-year Coach Kevin Pearson.

After losing to Crenshaw and Carson to open the season, Taft has won four in a row entering a West Valley League game at Woodland Hills El Camino Real on Friday.

"I think we've gotten better every week," Pearson said. "We're eliminating a lot of our mistakes from some of the younger guys, but they're still going through growing pains."

Junior quarterback Josh Portis has given the Toreadors a lift with his playmaking. Portis has thrown for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also had a 63-yard scoring run last week in a 25-14 victory over Reseda Cleveland.

"He's come a long way," Pearson said. "He's learning and he's becoming more mature. You teach him something one time and he gets it and doesn't forget it."

*

Granada Hills Kennedy ended its 16-game losing streak with a 27-13 Valley Mission League victory over Reseda on Friday. The Golden Cougars' last victory had come over Venice in the 2001 Invitational Division semifinals.

"We learned a lot through this hard run," said Coach Bob Francola, in his 18th season at Kennedy. "It's human nature to distance yourself from something when things are going bad. Keeping the kids together was the biggest coaching challenge.

"I think I've been a better coach during this last stretch, but you wouldn't know it, because you're not winning games."

*

Granada Hills' 28-24 loss in the final minute to Lake Balboa Birmingham could derail its West Valley League title hopes, but lineman Matt Streid did his part for the Highlanders.

Streid had a dominating game with six solo tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles.

"He's an outstanding player and a real competitor," co-Coach Tom Harp said. "I don't think there's a better lineman on both sides of the ball."

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City top 10: 1. Venice (6-0); 2. Dorsey (6-0); 3. Gardena (6-0); 4. Crenshaw (5-1); 5. Fremont (5-0-1); 6. Birmingham (3-3); 7. Carson (3-3); 8. Granada Hills (4-2); 9. Taft (4-2); 10. San Pedro (4-2).

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